Back in January, I wrote that perhaps the popularity of the survival genre could be attributed to the fact that gamers love exploring open words and survival titles offer the possibility that these environments are more than just pretty textures. But with acclaim comes oversaturation and we’re now stuck with a huge amount of inferior releases – many of which recycle a formula that revolves around building-stuff and building-more-stuff-with-the-stuff-you-just-built.
It was with some surprise then that I sat down to play the demo of Impact Winter at the Rezzed event at the end of March and found something which may just break the cycle. The developers themselves, Mojo Bones, are calling their game ‘survival adventure’: although it has obvious survival mechanics such as crafting and resource management, it also has an equal blend of RPG elements including team members and story-paths. As they wrote in a blog post earlier this year:
It’s not our aim to try and compete with the already-long list of ‘survive-as-long-as you-can-’em-ups’, and Impact Winter definitely hasn’t been created to capitalize on a popular genre / theme.
The game takes place in North America and is set eight years after ‘the catastrophe’, an asteroid collision that has ravaged Earth’s population and buried the planet under perpetual snowfall. Players step into the shoes of Jacob Solomon and are charged with leading a makeshift team who are trying to survive in the Church. Your robot companion Ako-Light intercepts a scrambled radio transmission which announces that help will be coming in 30 days; but there’s no way to tell from where, and so all you can do is hold out until it arrives.
Jacob represents an all-round leader who’s capable of exploring the Void but his team possess specific skills that boost your chances of survival. For example, Blane’s expertise can be used to craft traps, lock-picks and weapons while Maggie’s mechanic skills can help build upgrades to your base. Although their behaviour is fully-automated, they look to your character for guidance and your actions directly affect relationships. So be warned: if a member is depressed from being too bored or running low on energy from being worked too hard, you shouldn’t expect them to do exactly what they’re told.
The Void is a harsh winter environment that covers a derelict underworld, and players will have to contend with both the harsh outdoor weather conditions and the haunting interiors that lie deep below. You can dig for buried secrets, hunt wildlife at night, investigate mysterious signals and set up camp during long expeditions. Scavenging for supplies is a key part of Impact Winter too and Ako-Light’s limited inventory will no doubt create some tough choices later on in the game.
The thing I liked most about Mojo Bones’ project is the fact that you can influence the 30-day rescue timer. A key part of the gameplay takes inspiration from classic RPGs where you earn experience and level up; so you’ll be rewarded for your discoveries and choices, and strengthening Ako-Light’s signal in this way will reduce the time left on the clock. Dynamic story events replace a traditional mission structure and these can be completely random (such as wandering strangers or strange illnesses) or scripted scenarios tied to certain conditions (such as storms damaging the Church or depressed team-members going missing).
Unfortunately Impact Winter will be released a little later than expected but you’ll only have to wait until 23 May 2017. The developers have advised that this is because the title has become a lot bigger than they originally anticipated and one of their main priorities is to ensure that the initial stages of the game aren’t too overwhelming. They’ve stated that the delay is all in aid of ‘giving everyone the best experience possible’ so we can’t fault them for that.